84-Year Old NFL Alumnus Tom Rychlec: I Was/Am A Ball Player

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A couple of NFL Alumni staff members recently took a trip to The Village at East Farms in Waterbury, Connecticut, the home of NFL alumnus Tom Rychlec.

Rychlec, a 10th round draft choice of the Lions in 1957, played one season in the NFL and then four years in the AFL with the Bills and Broncos. His most productive season was the first year of the AFL when he had 45 receptions for nearly 600 yards with the Bills in 1960.   

As impressive as his football stats are, our NFLA staffers were amazed at Tom’s youthful, upbeat demeanor. He continues to light up every room he’s in. During our interview, he joked that at age 84 he had lost a few inches from his 6-3 height in his prime. Our staffers didn’t notice any difference since his prominent demeanor helped him stand taller than any of us. 

Tom made a successful transition off the field many years ago as he worked with the Connecticut Department of Corrections for 20 years. He reminisced about how some of his colleagues back then referred to him as the “John Wayne of the prison.” 

Tom Rychlec has close ties with his family in a most admirable way. When we came by for a surprise visit, his son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law were also visiting. They looked at him lovingly while we spoke and his son Dan encouraged him to tell certain stories as they were his favorites growing up. 

As our staffers were reluctantly leaving, they asked Tom if there were anything he would have done differently as he looked in the rear-view mirror. The money was not the same back then; his signing bonus was $6,500, and his average paycheck was $7,000. However, Tom responded without hesitation: “there are three types of people: students, ball players, and goofballs.  I was/am a ball player.”

Visiting Tom Rychlec was an inspirational experience for the NFL alumni team. 

We thank all our ballplayers who are NFL Alumni members, especially Tom for his pioneer years in pro football.

We look forward to connecting with him again. 

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